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When buying or selling a home, it’s good to know what counts as square footage and what doesn’t.
Garages and other unfinished areas cannot be taken into the calculation of square footage. In general, to be included in your home’s square footage, the area must be finished. In addition, the area must be accessible to other finished areas of the house, and specific ceiling height requirements must be met.
Let’s see what you can and cannot count as square footage.
Areas to Include When Calculating Square Footage
For most people, the gross floor area or gross living area (GLA) of a home is what they’re thinking when they hear “square footage.”
In general, to be included in your home’s square footage, the area must be finished. The area must be accessible to other finished areas of the home, and specific ceiling height requirements must be met.
To count as finished square footage, an area must include four attributes:
- Ability to live 365 days a year
Stairs: Runs/treads and landings both count in square footage totals. They are measured as a part of the floor “from which they descend,” so are generally counted twice in a typical two-story home with a basement.
Finished attic space that’s fit for occupancy and possesses at least seven feet of clearance should be included in your GLA. The same is true for any supplementary stories in the house.
Areas that shouldn’t be Included in Your Calculations.
Garage space (attached or detached) is not included in square footage. And many standards do not count basements (even if they’re finished) in overall square footage. Though with basements, there are exceptions.
Basements aren’t considered in the living area of the home. Still, they are considered in the square basement footage of the house. How basements are valued varies from market to market and from state to state, so again – you must hire an appraiser to assist you in developing an opinion of your home.
If you go out to the detached garage and up the stairs to a finished, heated & cooled area, it cannot be considered in the square footage. Or even if the garage is attached to the home, if you must access the bonus room by going into the attached garage, then going up the stairs to the finished room, that area cannot be counted.
Here’s How to Calculate Your Square Footage
If you plan to measure room by room, grab your measuring tape and multiply the room’s width by the length to get the space’s total square footage. For example, if your living room is 30 feet wide by 20 feet wide, then you’d calculate 30×20 to get 600 total square feet.
You can perform this task for each room that you’d like to include in your square footage. But, it’s important to keep in mind that real estate agents who list your home may calculate your square footage differently.
Calculating the square footage of a home is not as easy as it sounds. Neither real estate agents nor homeowners should attempt the calculation (at least not if you want a solid figure). Rarely houses are absolutely square, which is one of many reasons for the difficulty. Appraisers map out the house on a piece of graph paper, calculate all the edges, come up with “mini-areas” for each rectangle – then add them all together.
Today there are digital measurement devices and software also available and in use instead of paper.
Plus, there are other complex rules. Suppose there has been an addition to the house, and the owner did not receive a building permit. In that case, that section of the house may not be allowable as part of the square footage—the same with attic and basement conversions, lofts, and so on.
It is best to rely on a licensed appraiser to recalculate the square footage of a house.
When a home’s square footage is advertised, the value usually comes from previous sales, possibly as far back as the builder. Homeowners and real estate agents don’t usually recalculate the square footage.